The two governments must stop huffing and sort out the latest mess together

What probably sunk it for the DUP was the scenario in the stalled 15 page agreement.

“In the absence of (an EU  agreement), the UK government will maintain FULL alignment with the internal market and the customs union, and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement”.

It ranges from very unlikely to impossible that they will agree to this even as a remote possibility for as long “walking away ” from an UK/EU deal remains a UK option. In that event it follows that NI would acquire a form of special status with the EU to differentiate it from the rest of the UK.

I don’t see how the DUP can accept this wording unless they receive cast iron guarantees of no economic border in the Irish Sea.

As this seems impossible I suggest the following:

  •  The two governments draw up a shortlist of areas which are       converged/integrated/aligned today, headed by agribusiness and energy and sbould stay that way, but capable of expansion later. What is integrated today should remain integrated tomorrow. This would be a bilateral British-Irish agreement but the  EU would be asked exceptionally  to approve it. However, even this would be vulnerable to a “thin end of the wedge” argument from the DUP.


The DUP are now invoking the constitutional position and rather disingenuously eliding it with a potential new economic east-west border in supposed violation of the consent principle of the GFA. They may not accept assurances from Westminster alone.

  • The two governments should reaffirm the fundamental distinction and declare their  opposition to a border poll in the foreseeable future, with the Republic adding their opposition to the required parallel referendum in the Republic.

Both governments are already on record as opposing a border poll unless or until the present political turmoil settles down.

  • It would help if Dublin joined business north and south to declare that  their opposition to an Irish Sea border. (See the obvious case made by economist Esmond Birnie in the Newsletter).

Tbe fact that the Irish government have been playing down this aspect of their interests in recent days shows they have been playing politics as much as everybody else.

  • Both governments sbould declare their intention now to work through the local issues and manage the final outcome of Brexit after adding a beefed up section to the GFA. This would clarify what is fundamentally bilateral but is currently expressed in an EU context and needs reformulation.

It is hard to see any version of this being signed off in a couple of days.

Brexit will have to wait.

Why on earth didn’t they see it coming and plan accordingly?





  • Georgie Best

    The GFA belongs to all the people of NI, not just the DUP and they must be faced down on this matter.

    May needs to bring something of the spirit of the GFA to the Brexit process and form some sort of multi-party committee in Westminster for the 3 months until there is some sort of plan and then have the bulk of the Commons vote for this, outflanking the extremists.

  • New Yorker

    Change brings change. The DUP appear not to understand that proposition. Changing times means the DUP should be placated no more.

  • Paul Culloty

    How does Mr Walker define “the foreseeable future” in his proposed disavowal of a Border poll? A statement that such a poll would only be held if Nationalists held an absolute majority in Stormont would reassure Unionism, otherwise such a statement risks violating the GFA.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Why on earth didn’t they see it coming and plan accordingly?

    The fact that the border issue is a phase 1 issue proves that one side did. As to renegotiating the GFA, I can guess that Dublin’s position will be that consent was given in 1998 and via subsequent NSMC decisions for certain matters to be aligned North-South rather than East-West and they are looking for nothing more than a continuance of the status quo on jointly agreed, and treaty backed provisions.

  • Neville Bagnall

    The two governments draw up a shortlist of areas which are converged/integrated/aligned today

    That already exists surely – the 142 areas identified by the mapping exercise.

  • Mark Loughran

    Without getting into the rights and wrongs of Sinn Feins position on taking their Westminister seats, we are really suffering from not having nationalist representation in Parliament. The DUP are able to give the impression that they represent Northern Ireland as a whole, when the fact is they represent less than a third of all NI voters, even fewer if you take into account those that didn’t vote. An alternative voice would be able to remind GB electorate and politicians that Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and that the DUP have no mandate to do what they are doing.

  • Georgie Best

    You are in the wrong thread. But surely a poll may be called if there is a reasonable chance of it proceeding. For instance if nationalists had 45% of votes and it seemed that half of the 15% middle ground might favour a UI. Note that in this case unionists would have 40% of the votes, as they will in a few years.

  • Georgie Best

    This is only the case because the Assembly, which is representative is not being consulted. Now this has to do with the DUP blocking the formation of an executive, but also to do with avoiding consulting the Scots.

  • Neil

    The mess was sorted, only the DUP stand in the way, representative at a generous push, of about 750,000 people out of 65 million. So how about no. Both governments don’t need to sort it out, the Tories need to put the DUP back into line, and no one rewrites the GFA to pull either the Tories or the DUP out of a hole.

    Here’s a counter proposal. Sort the Irish border before you get talking about trade deals. No solution, no trade deal. Yes this will hurt the EU27, but that will be a pin prick as compared to the severed limb it will be to GB. The dog should just continue wagging the tail in this instance, British exceptionalism should be ignored.

  • Paul Culloty

    FF plan to contest the next Stormont election, but not sure if they would run for Westminster, let alone take their seats.

  • Obelisk

    Any confirmation of this? Any links?

    Because I would be deeply interested in what Fianna Fail has to say. Nationalism in the north has become an intellectually stale monolith and some competition would sharpen us up…and maybe force FF down south to adopt a somewhat ‘greener’ edge overall.

    The SDLP would have to die or be absorbed to make room though. No loss there.

  • Paul Culloty

    The last Stormont election came too soon, but 2019 appears to be their target, in the councils:

  • Nevin

    “The fact that the border issue is a phase 1 issue proves that one side did.”

    Interesting that Brian should ignore the EU power play as it was a contributor to the mess by imposing red lines and displaying a lack of willingness to negotiate.

    “they [Dublin] are looking for nothing more than a continuance of the status quo on jointly agreed, and treaty backed provisions.”

    NSMC represents one of the strands of the 1998 Agreement and there’s no reason why parts of Strand 2 shouldn’t be reassigned to Strand 3. Dublin, for example, ignored Strand 2 when it devised its Gathering project. In other words, it can’t be trusted to abide by the letter and spirit of the Agreement.

  • murdockp

    We seem to be taking about the DUP as if they govern Northern Ireland.

    They do not they represent 35%

    I would take the wording agreed by London and Dublin and let us the people in NI have a vote on the matter, after all it is us this affects.

    They have called elections in NI for less than this, but in true DUP style, democracy should only be used when it is likely to give and answer in line with your own views.

  • Neville Bagnall

    It would help if Dublin joined business north and south to declare that their opposition to an Irish Sea border.

    That has been their position from day one. For the UK to stay within the EEA and CU. The UK took that off the table, so they asked the UK to explain how a seamless border could be maintained. They have not been reassured by the UK offerings. Hence the “all-else-fails” of regulatory alignment.

  • Rapparee

    Sorry, but the UK are the ones leaving the EU. The onus is on them, the Irish government should not be obligated to clean up a UK mess. Its deal or no deal as they keep saying.

  • 05OCT68

    How about this future scenario, Suppose the DUP hold the balance of power in a future Westminster government & the Major party decides that the time is right for a border poll. What would be the DUP’s position be, would it threaten to withdraw support fot the majority party. A stand has to be made now by the tories.

  • Rapparee

    If you don`t like it Brian, then I suggest you start lobbying for a United Ireland and remain in the EU.

  • 1729torus

    An Irish Sea border between RoI and Wales would seriously injure the latter.

  • Rapparee

    Unionism didn`t respect or act democratically when it had the whip hand and was in the majority. What makes anyone think that it will respect democracy, or act in accordance with it, when its in a minority.

    Leopard and spots.

  • Neville Bagnall

    What looks like a power play to one may be a vital issue in need of clarity for another.

    Since the solution offered is to stop treating it like a power play and actually address it…

    As to the Gathering, it was on the NSMC agenda at the planning stage, I doubt if Dublin was seeking to exclude NI involvement, unless you know different? You can bring a horse to water… (see also: New Ireland Forum, NSMC boycotts, Brexit Forum, 1916 anniversary events)

  • Cory Kelly

    If ever there was ever a time to seriously consider a UI poll within the next few years, it is now.
    Your suggestion to effectively neuter the option of a border poll by slipping such a notion into a brexit deal is crafty but unreasonable.

  • Brian

    Genuine question born of ignorance : Why are Nationalists looking for a border poll and Unionists apposed to one? Isn’t the outcome almost certain to be a easy victory to remain in the UK? Would a close result be seen as damaging the Union? Again, honest question.

  • Rapparee

    Seemingly detailed plans have been in the works since 2015 and drawn up within the Irish government in relation to a hard Brexit. Hence the new interconnector with France in the works, new shale gas terminal in Cork in concert with a Texan provider etc. The ferry terminal in Cork is going to get a lot more work. The process of decoupling from the sinking ship has already begun in Ireland.

  • Nevin

    “it was on the NSMC agenda at the planning stage”

    Can you provide a link?

  • Rapparee

    Because to even acknowledge a border poll`s existence and right to take place, would burst the bubble of delusion within unionism and instil panic. That`s how insecure they are, that they dare not even speak its name for fear of it becoming a reality.
    I imagine it must be very stressful to live under such an imminent fear of abandonment.

  • hgreen

    Two governments? I think you’ll find that it’s the UK govt that’s responsible for this clusterf#k.

  • hgreen

    At this rate of incompetence by the DUP and the Tories it’ll be a close run thing.

  • Rapparee

    Not to mention the fact that Enda Kenny invited the DUP to become involved and talk about solutions to Brexit in the all Island forum in Dublin at the beginning of this mess and was roundly rejected by same. Yet still today 18 mths on,they have no suggestions and blame the Irish government for their own ignorance and ineptitude.

  • Brian

    I think thats a bit unfair, to put it mildly. On that logic the only reason Ns want it is to laugh at the DUP freaking out about it.

    Doesnt a win for the Union effectively end the question for a generation and put Us in a much more comfortable position? If I was a Unionist I’d be happy to call SF’s bluff on this one.

  • Rapparee

    They are not confident of a win and are afraid of letting the genie out of the bottle.

  • Neville Bagnall
  • Rapparee

    The British establishment & media still seem unable to grasp that Ireland has the full support of the other EU26 on this, and are somehow becoming isolated. Ewan Davis on Newsnight last night again asked a Dutch MEP, and I paraphrase “Ye really aren`t going to stand fully behind the Irish on this” and she said “YES”. The prerecorded interview was cut and spliced, so it looks like what she added was cut. I`ve see BBC reporting edit out Donald Tusk`s words about British politicians failing to understand that Ireland was more or less leading on this issue, when he gave the press conference with the Taoiseach.

  • The Saint

    I was following to see if you’d get back to him, well done.

  • Nevin

    It is important to put “The Gathering” into context. It was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative in October of last year [2011]. It was launched as not just a tourism initiative but something much wider. To give you a line from the Republic of Ireland’s own Department, it saw “The Gathering”:

    “being positioned as a platform for business or community to connect with networks around the world. It is seen as an opportunity to help restore the local and national economy, rebuild local and national pride and renew Ireland’s global reputation.”

    “The Gathering” is not just about bringing more tourists into the Republic of Ireland or onto this island; it has a much wider remit. That is fine; that is something that the Republic of Ireland’s Government have decided they need to do in the context of the many difficulties that they have had in the past. ..

    I was told about “The Gathering” initiative — and members of the SDLP might like to take cognisance of this issue — one day before it was launched in Dublin at the Clinton Global Initiative. .. Source – 30 April 2012

    In other words, it was a Dublin initiative with all-island implications yet Dublin had neither the manners nor the wit to consult and collaborate with Belfast.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Brian it would not end the question for a generation but start unstable political border polls every seven years as laid out in the GFA that is why the best Critia for a border poll is when Nationalism can achieve 50% of any NI Election

  • Nevin

    The Saint, The Gathering was just Dublin doing its own thing; it wasn’t a joint venture.

  • Jess McAnerney

    “Isn’t the outcome almost certain to be a easy victory to remain in the UK?”
    If that were true, don’t you think we would have one?
    Who is it objecting should answer the question?

  • Rapparee

    That 50% will be reached in the foreseeable future, watch Unionism take the goal posts off the field and drop them in the next parish.

  • The Saint

    Not getting into the debate. But your query in relation to NSMC would appear to be answered by Neville.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    What year will you hit it as I am still planning on having a wee NI centerary party in Sandy Row in 21 I am safe for that ? I don’t want to waste the cooked sausage rolls ?

  • Nevin

    The evidence presented shows that it wasn’t on the NSMC agenda at the planning stage ie it contradicts what Neville claimed.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    You can see the eternal dilemma, in that when you hear Arlene and co. you can see they are Irish Unionists, as home in Ireland as green or orange Taytos and Guinness signs on whitewashed walls. Yet, for the most part, they prefer not to align in any way with their fellow Irish people in the other jurisdiction (Mexico?) or on the other side of the constitutional fence. So it is difficult to engage with them on matters of common interest if they state preference for UK-ROI channels only aside from what is explicitly required in the NS strand of the Belfast Agreement (though I would like to know to what extent they have really engaged there as well).

    That said, I agree with the piece here in that there is really very little stopping them from signing up to a deal that favors no borders anywhere pending talks and a NS failsafe measure for if/when the talks collapse. However, tomorrow is the last day for May to meet with Junker and colleagues, and now there may not be time to get cabinet behind the deal. As always, we have the usual issue with May in that she is not Thatcher or Blair or even Major and she will not put underlings in their place.

  • The Saint

    Didnt read it.

    Why wasn’t the occupied territory on-board then?

  • Nevin

    “Didnt read it.”

    Probably best to engage the brain before backing a point of view.

  • The Saint

    I didn’t back his point.

    I was interested did you get a reply.

    So many posters do not get answers on this site

  • Brian

    Ah, I dont know about the poll every 7 years. Both sides positions make alot more sense in that light. Thanks.

  • Granni Trixie

    We have sufficient instability to be going on with with Brexit.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’ll be there! That ok TE?

  • lizmcneill

    This is why Wales has started demanding to stay in the customs union or have special status, I assume?

  • Neville Bagnall

    Global Irish Economic Forum – Day 1 – October 2011

    1430 RTÉ’s Robert Shortt on Twitter: “Min for Tourism Leo Varadkar announces ‘The Gathering.’ Plan to bring 300,000 tourists to Ireland in 2013.”

    Taoiseach & Tánaiste launch The Gathering Ireland 2013 – 11th May 2012

    “The thinking behind the initiative, which came out of the first Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh in 2009, is to develop links with the Irish diaspora of about 70 million people with a view to their contributing to Irish economic renewal.

    Tourism was everybody’s business, he said. This was a brilliant opportunity for people to “step up to the mark” and organise events and “go that extra distance” with their hospitality”.

    Leaving aside the apparent confusion between the CGI and the GIEF there is a difference between a political announcement about something that has been in the ether for 2 years and the launch of a worked out plan. Even if the plan is primarily to get grassroots to do most of the work.

    It was discussed at the first NSMC Sectoral between announcement and launch. Plenty of time for NI to get involved if they wished to.

  • Neville Bagnall

    I usually try and follow up, as long as I think the discussion is more light than noise. Or until real life diverts.

    Nice to know it’s noticed.

  • Neville Bagnall

    There are two ways of engaging, proactively or reactively.

    If the SDLP or SF had held the tourism brief, NI would almost certainly have engaged in The Gathering.

    I have absolutely no proof for this, but I can’t help feeling that when it comes to the NSMC, the DUP ministers spend a lot of time cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

    So it’ll be disappointing, but hardly surprising, if they end up doing the same over Brexit.

  • Nevin

    I looked at that list of participants and there isn’t a single Northern Ireland address ie Dublin doing its own thing in its own state even though the diaspora has roots in both jurisdictions (and elsewhere). As I noted in my two blogs, the wishes and needs of the diaspora should be front and central. Bodies like Tourism Ireland ought to be more customer orientated.

  • Nevin

    Dublin does its own thing instead of being proactive and therefore shouldn’t be surprised if, from time to time, it gets a negative reaction – not least when it cherry-picks the 1998 Agreement.

    In the case of Brexit, the EU folk will be happy to see Dublin copping the flak.

  • Neville Bagnall

    OK, this is getting silly. The venue of the announcement is hardly a measure of Dublin willingness to have NI involvement.

    Without knowing what was suggested in the January NSMC Sectoral meeting, or any other (attempted) discussions that might have occurred during the post-announcement planning phase, we can not know what might have happened.

    Regarding the GIEF, I don’t know how many of the internationally based thought leaders invited had antecedents in the Republic and how many felt more connection with the North.

    I think we’ve gone down the rabbit hole a bit much when we’re analysing attendance lists, but just to be curmudgeonly 🙂 and because he was easy to find, I will note this attendee listed for the first GIEF in 2009.

    Stephen KINGON
    Chairman of Invest NI and Chair of the Centre of Competitiveness in Northern Ireland

  • Tarlas

    Alex Kanes recent article re death of GFA is on the money re Dup Brexit agenda. How else can they remove the 50 +1 ref with demographic changes ahead. A walk away no deal brexit staggering onto WTO terms may nullify aspects of GFA. Hence their fear of accepting option 3 of this no agreement deal. The naivety of some !!!

  • Marcus Orr

    It is the right time now for the DUP to call for a border poll. It’s exactly what the UK and ROI govts, and the EU, do not want, that local people decide what they really want. This way Arlene Foster and the DUP can regain the initiative somewhat as they continue, as they should, to block this deal.

  • El Daddy

    It isn’t a poll every seven years. There is a minimum wait of seven years between polls, but not one every seven years – some people on both sides like to frame it as such for whatever reason, but they being as inaccurate as they are unhelpful.

  • Nevin

    Dublin’s approach to this all-island relevant event shows its disregard for the letter and spirit of the 1998 Agreement.

  • William Kinmont

    Why did they pay for the road to Larne?

  • Rapparee

    You have me, I don`t think I`ve ever travelled that one, why?

  • Rapparee

    The Welsh were the turkeys voting for Christmas, I have no idea what stupidity got into them.

  • Statilius the Epicurean

    No-one thought Yes had a sniff of a chance in the Scottish indyref (SNP were trying to get devo max on the ballot) and in the last week they almost pulled it off. Referenda are rather unpredictable.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    More than welcome Granni wear your Union Jack Knickers and I will get you a boyfriend at the party ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Don’t kid yourself with words – Once you start a Border Poll Running I can assure you there will be a Border Poll every 7 years until Republicism & Nationalism Wins ? In between them odd 7 years F Knows what comes out of the Gennie Bottle but my gut feeling is it ain’t going to be pleasant ?

  • William Kinmont

    It’s the infastructure on the other side that concerns me. Will Scotland facilitate any customs checks and routes quickly and efficiently if we do get any sort of special status deal.
    Might they delay in protest?

  • Granni Trixie

    I suspect my husband would have something to say about that. But thanks for the offers.

  • Rapparee

    I wouldn`t imagine so, the Scots will not do anything to tarnish their relationship with the EU and its outworkings. They just have to make the decision and become independent, plough their own furrow in the world, most likely as an fellow EU member. Being part of the UK is a liability for them and has been for decades.

  • El Daddy

    So you’re saying that none should ever be held?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Get to 50% then Loyalism will talk ?

  • El Daddy

    50% what? Westminster seats? Stormont seats? Variable opinion polls that change every time?